A short visa run to Hong Kong

First a simple question was asked.

“Need a room for the night sir’?

A different question from another malnourished dark skin Indian man.

“What are you looking for my friend”?

A scantily dressed Indian woman sitting crossed legged on a short plastic stool in front of a jewelry shop winking at me…

I think to myself “am I witnessing pimping first hand”? Walking past…

A giant black man with a strong African accent then gets my attention “I have hashish. What are you looking for”!?

Before I can give any response, a Middle Eastern guy asks if I’m hungry while he is holding an opened restaurant menu. I took the opportunity to escape the area and then he led me to his restaurant that was deep inside the ground floor of this complex.

I struggled to keep up as I took in the surroundings. Neon lights displayed signs stating ‘exchange’, ‘jewelry’ ‘gold’ ‘tailoring’ and ‘electronics’ were all lite up to attract visitors. A few salesmen standing in front of the establishments motioned for my attention. An array of people from Africa, Middle Eastern countries, Indians and others from South East Asian countries were among the owners, workers, hustlers, and general loiters. What was this place? The general vibe was sketch….I wanted to turn around…I wanted to go deeper in…

After a few turns and passing many restaurants serving Middle Eastern, Nepali, and an array of curries, we finally make it to his establishment. He pulled out a seat for me and placed the menu before me…

I really just needed to locate the place I’d be staying while taking cover from the outside downpour. It was around 10:30 pm. I was just arriving.

Using the restaurant’s WIFI, I discovered the actual location was near and called the owner. Apparently, it was a part of this ‘neighborhood’ within the few blocks of Chung King Mansions.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this place since it is a blog post on its own. Here is a link explaining the notorious area https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chungking_Mansions

Long story short, its a sleazy part of town and a place with the cheapest rooms in Hong Kong. So, I can’t blame my employer for booking these two nights here – too much. A visa run brought me to Hong Kong…A quick entry, 1-day stay and an exit the following day after. This was all the time I was allowed since it was on my off days from work.

“Hell, this is a part of the experience,” I told myself to help overcome my feelings of not wanting to stay in the area. And technically, I’d only spend a few hours in the room. Most of the time I’ll be sleeping while there.

After eating a huge plate of long grain basmati white rice and Lentil Curry, I gathered my things and pulled my luggage behind me. Avoiding eye contact with the hustlers at the entrance on my way out. My room (the size of a huge walk-in closet-I would soon discover) was, in fact, the next building over on the 12th floor…

Here are a few pictures that were taken the following day.

Exploring parts of Nanning while cruising an electric bike

There are many ways of seeing the sights and exploring the city. Getting around Nanning is fairly easy. You have options that is for sure…
The most convenient is using the metro. The entire system is fairly new, safe, clean, efficient and affordable. When I was there in 2017, there were two lines that went through the main parts of the city. Pick a stop and see what you will find. There is always something to discover if your a foreigner.
Other options are using a taxi, shared bicycles (using mobike, offo and other apps), jumping on the local bus or even on the back of an electric bike taxi. However, the simplest choice of transportation to get around with is an electric scooter. If you plan on living there, its worthwhile to purchase your very own. Prices start at around $350usd.
If you think an electric bike is nothing more then a toy, that assumption is wrong. Even the low end styles can cruise around 30mph. This is not that fast, but trust me, in a city among millions of electric bikes drivers, you don’t need to go any faster then this speed.
The main road infrastructure is suitable for both motorists. Vehicles have their own lanes (and lights) and the bikes have theirs. This makes commuting more efficient and generally, a bit safer.
The luxury of owning an electric bike is that you are free to explore every street, ally or neighborhood easily. Feel free to get lost! Just make sure you have a fully charged battery before taking off.
Here are a couple of photos of cool sights while out and about on the streets of this growing city.


Hongqi 60V Electric bike


Hard to tell, but there are fish in these plastic bags filled with water…presumably on the way to market


A butchered hog on the way to market…



Its hard to tell but this is a Lamborgini in a rundown neighborhood. The contrast looked cool…


Getting comfortable with my new life as a foreigner in China

I arrived in Nanning at the end of April 2017…

I would soon discover that Jack was not a mafia boss but was instead a very cool guy in charge of settling in the new teachers. He would line me up with an apartment and hook up all the monthly services such as gas, water, internet and other essentials.

Getting acquainted with my new coworkers was interesting. The teachers came from Ireland, United Kingdom, United States and eventually another from New Zealand. The wonderful teacher assistants and company secretaries that helped us teachers and the parents/clients were all locals of Nanning.  Their ability to speak both Chinese and English along with their great personalities made a huge difference in the overall experience. I would be in charge of teaching kids, teenagers and adult in private lessons. They made sure up teachers had a good relationship with our non-English (differed in levels) speaking students and their parents. They did anything for us foreigners to make sure our experience was pleasant. I’m forever grateful and hope that they will be life long friends.

Outside of work, I made it a point to connect (amidst the language barrier) with the locals-especially the business owners at the markets and restaurants I liked. Here and there were English speaking people at my local gym, library, cafes and throughout my local neighborhood.  I soon would meet many great people outside of my work circle.

One of those people was a woman approaching her mid thirties with the air of a teenager. Her English name is Ellen. I would soon call her sweet Ellen…and she enriched my experience during my time in China – even in Thailand – as you will read that she joins me along my travels back in Chiang Mai, in Bangkok and the wonderful south Thailand island of Koh Lanta.

I would discover certain areas around Nanning where markets and foodie heavens exist. Neighborhoods where bustling open air markets served its many citizens nestled in between cement built multi-level apartment buildings. Also, notorious BBQ alleys where thousands of locals and tourists flock for an array of foods and snacks.

Stick around, subscribe and read on. There is more to come about my experiences in China and my South East Asian adventure.

IMG_1865Sweet Ellen and I eating stinky tofu


IMG_7271There’s a wal-mart in this shopping mall…

IMG_7298One open air market near my apartment


IMG_7549_zoomGrandma and Grandma threw their baby on me for a photo


IMG_7592The best way to get your chickens to market




IMG_7644Foodie heaven

IMG_7665My first time at KTV (karaoke)

IMG_7696On the outskirts of the city



Nanning, Guangxi Province

Being the only foreigner on the plane making the decent for landing on China soil felt…well, like a dream…It would be the first time ever traveling to the Republic.

Looking out the window and down below, I noticed small irregular green hills and miniature limestone mountains also covered with patches of greenery mostly near the base. Some were left undisturbed while others had great big chunks missing created by nearby heavy mining machinery. Plots of farmland lay on portions of the lush land. A few streets were visible with a few vehicles driving. There seemed to not be much activity going on on this side road of the airport…

After snatching my hiking pack off the conveyor belt, I make my way to the arrivals section.

At most busy international airports, there is a cluster of people holding up signs to welcome certain passengers entering the arrival section from baggage claim. The signs state a persons name, a group name or the company the greeter is representing. Even though my future manager didn’t tell me to expect some one holding a sign with my name on it, I figured a company greeter would be there with a sign or even the company name I’d be working with.

Walking past the group and looking for an English written sign, I saw nothing helpful. So much for feeling important…

Standing nearby feeling dumbfounded and looking around, I noticed that I was the only foreigner here! On the plane its a bit understandable but in this entire arrival terminal?! There was no need for a greeter to be holding up a sign – I’d be easy to spot out by the person who would be picking me up. The best option was to stay put.

As I stood there waiting, a feeling of being engulfed by hundreds of people overcame me. I was in hiding, yet noticed by many passerby’s gazing at my foreign face, clothes and luggage of choice. I was a curiosity standing still among the many moving Chinese people. This feeling would become a familiarity I would soon discover. One of many discoveries and ‘learned’ familiarity’s that I would realize during my stay in China…

A hand grabbing my shoulder gently snaps me out of my daze. A phone was pressed to my ear from the groper…

‘Hello Robert. Welcome, this is Jack’.

My mind thought of scenes from the movies where adrenaline filled events would ensue after landing in a foreign country and speaking to a Mafia Bass named Jack on a mysterious old school Nokia looking phone…

‘Um…Hello, Jack…your guy found me’ – adding to my imagination of the movie scene…

‘Good, hope your flight was good. ******** will drive you from the airport to your apartment in the city’.

I didn’t catch the Chinese name, but I assumed the guy holding the phone to my ear was him…

Enjoying the Northern City of Chiang Mai Thailand

From Singapore, I’d fly to Chiang Mai in North Thailand and settle there until I would find work. Through word of mouth, I was told about a local neighborhood about 2.5 miles south of the city center not far from the airport. It proved to be a great choice after the first few days. I found myself feeling more and more content while adapting to the slower pace of life here in Buddhist country. How much time would I be fortunate enough to spend here?

Easy access to food from both local restaurants and street food vendors offering breakfast, lunch and dinner was a pleasure to make my inner fat man happy. Where else could you get BBQ (or fried) chicken (and other pieces of meat) at 8:00 in the morning?!

A routine quickly formed of applying for jobs in the mornings, taking Thai language lessons, exercising at a nearby gym, lunch, then explore the city and surrounding areas for the later afternoons and evenings. On the weekends I’d up the exploration and take a break from searching and applying for jobs, language lessons and exercise.

Id recommend renting a scooter (beware of road blocks from the police stopping those without an international drivers license to collect money) and exploring not only the city in and around the moat, but also the surrounding areas. If your a foodie, CM is food heaven as you will have many options of local and also international cuisines. There are so many markets scattered around the city. Some big, others small. Some only at night and others only during the day. You can do your due diligence a find which ones you’d like to check out for local snacks and/or to purchase ingredients, clothes, souvenirs and other goodies. My favorite market is Kom Market since it is fairly small with many locals and offers an array of cooked and uncooked food to purchase. Its not big in comparison to others and operates usually in the afternoon and early evening. Knowing how to say at least your numbers in Thai will be beneficial here.

After about 1 month, I received an opportunity and interview to teach English at a private school in Nanning, Guangxi Province in south China. Leaving myself open to whatever would present itself felt like a good way to travel, so I went with the flow and made plans to venture into China for a new experience shortly after receiving the offer.

The people, food, general relaxed and slow paced lifestyle of this Northern Thailand gem of a city had impressed upon me a feeling of wanting more. There is so much I could write about my experience in CM in this post (and will add a later post….since I did come back) but will keep it short. I felt like I could live there and join the many ex-pats who already call this wonderful place home. However, since rice field burning season was going full force, (March/April) my lungs would be appreciating a much needed change of air quality. But wait, weren’t many big city’s in China dealing with their own set of challenges in air quality? I couldn’t help but wonder; what would I be getting my self into? cough cough

Khao Soi
Gaeng Keow Moo
Tom Yum soup
Khao Kha Moo

Singapore-My entry into Southeast Asia

As a westerner anticipating a venture into South East Asia for the first time, it seems like landing in Singapore would be a great first stop to immerse myself into a melting pot of different cultures and customs. Chinese, Malaysians, Indians are the predominant ethnic groups on the island. There are many more ethnicity’s that add to the mix and create a general feeling of acceptance of all people living on this wonderful island.

Seeing the different ethnicity’s working and living among each other, seemingly in harmony, impressed me the most during my stay here. Many places of worship for the multitude of religions are built within close proximity of each other throughout the different districts. In what other country can a multi-religious population reside on such a small land mass gather at their chosen place of worship without any hassle or worry?

The highlights of my visit include seeing the tourist attractions like Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and Orchard Towers to name a few spots. These were cool spots for sure. If you visit, I’d recommend seeing a few of the parks around the city (since I’m a nature lover). The Chinese and Japanese Garden on Jurong Lake is my top pick.

If you get a chance to visit at dawn and early morning hours, you will see many locals outdoors exercising, dancing, stretching, doing yoga, Qi gong, singing, fishing and all sorts of cool activities to welcome the day. Witnessing these park activities for the first time energized me to get active and join along since I am not accustomed to exercise in a huge park in the early morning hours. The only reason why I was up so early was because of jet lag…

Creative, inventive, efficient, modern, clean, moving forward, fast paced, intelligent, trend setting…..these are the words that come to mind when I think of Singapore. Is there a single word that can sum up my personal perspective of Singapore after my short visit? I suppose that word would be ‘impressive”- especially through the eyes of a person from a small southern town in America.

There are so many other things that impressed me while visiting. The food. The people. The low crime rate. Feelings of being in a tropical jungle-while still in the city. The exotic birds that you can hear in the city. The general orderliness. My only regrets are that I did not take as many pictures as I should have. Having a photographer with me sure would have been nice.


Pagoda located in the Chinese and Japanese Garden on Jurong Lake


Temple located near Arab St.



Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum



Garden by the Bay


Marina Bay Sands


Lucky monkey found a loaf of bread for lunch

Arriving in Southeast Asia

After being in the air for over 24 hours, hearing the pilot announce the ETA and current weather conditions at Changi Airport over the PA was a relief. Gazing out the window to greet the rays from the early morning Southeast Asia sunrise; below, there were hundreds of ships and freight-liners surrounding the island in the motionless blue sea. Seemingly not moving, they were either waiting to dock and unload or taking off back to sea again toward the next port city.

This being the first time ever traveling to the other side of the world, my entire body and brain were extremely fatigued. This is what happens when precautions aren’t taken prior to traveling such a distance – the proper amount of sleep (prior and during flight), avoiding caffeine and making sure to drink plenty of water, proper nutrition… you know; the things one would read in a book… How would I be able to figure out how to unlock my phone, find an international sim card, transportation to my airbnb room, how to order food, get the correct currency – what was it again anyways?…that’s right the Singapore dollar…what was the conversion again? Would my new Charles Schwab bank card indeed work and also waive the foreign transaction as well as the ATM fees? The language barrier?! The tasks that lay ahead seemed overbearing for a jet lagged mind. At least I managed to time travel forward in time…by 14 hours

New Mexico

I passed through this state on my way to the west coast back in November and did a help exchange in Roswell. My host made additions to her farm since I first left, so I felt obliged to make a second stop there. Before getting there, I visited the Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, NM. It was not what I expected but I enjoyed it nonetheless. From there I spent nearly a week in Santa Fe at a unique hostel. There, I met many amazing people who where traveling as well. Each had a different goal and perspective. I’ll never forget the cool fellas from Switzerland Dorrti Fruits . Cruising down the historic Old Santa Fe trail was nice. The city is one of a kind and I would definitely go back some day. I enjoyed sight seeing, listening to many live bands, artists, experienced different cuisine at the local farmers markets, sampled the local beer,  and above all enjoyed the people that I came across.

Leaving there I went south on hwy 285 in 100 degree weather. Being back in Roswell, I enjoyed seeing the many changes that took place on the farm. My host took me and another fellow Helpex volunteer from England out to dinner, a festival and to enjoy a local artist. Next morning, I set off through west Texas to visit with family.

Aztec Ruins Natl. Monument
Santa Fe trail
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe

Short time in Colorado

The time in this state was shorter than I would like to admit. Crossing through the four corners of UT, AZ, NM and CO wasn’t what I expected but a good experience nonetheless. I camped in San Juan National Forest and received a dose of the beauty that Colorado has to offer. I enjoyed witnessing the transition of the bare rock formations beginning to have grass and trees growing on them to eventual forest land as I made my way further into the state. My campsite was serene and lush with a nice river flowing near by 🙂 For some reason unknown, I didn’t take pictures… shucks

The next morning, I went to Mesa Verda National Park and enjoyed a guided tour of the largest cliff dwelling in North America. Cliff Palace was built by the ancient Pueblo Indians and is one of many ancient dwelling areas that the National Park has to offer. After this nice morning and afternoon, I then decided to spend the rest of my day and following morning in Durango before heading to New Mexico.

Utah Beauty

This beautiful state was unique and one of a kind. I enjoyed every single day of my few weeks spent here. My first weekend was filled with entertainment and good food at the 2014 Living Traditions Festival in Salt Lake City. I stayed in Hostels in Salt Lake City and later in Moab. Camping in Dixie National Forest in the southern part while driving through the All American Highway 12 was a delight. Experiencing different climates due to elevation was the only issue while riding my motorcycle and also camping (since my sleeping bag zipper decided to break) The scenery and solitude made up for this temporary discomfort though.

I visited Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef and Arches National Parks while in southern Utah. Breath taking scenery, friendly tourist from around the globe, informative rangers and very very NICE hikes! I also visited a number of petroglyph sites and National Monuments. I have to mention that the locals in the town of Boulder were very friendly and genuine folk. I enjoyed chatting with locals at the town coffee shop. I definitely will stop there again next time I am in the area. This town is situated right off of highway 12 about 20 minutes north of Escalante. I recommend taking the Burr Trail route – it eventually leads to a road that is parallel to Capital Reef National Park. The beauty of this trail will blow your mind! Being in awe due to unique geologic structures, rock formations, mountains as a backdrop at times, twisty, windy roads (unpaved at times) and changes in elevations proved to be the ultimate experience as well as my highlight of Utah. It felt like I was on a different planet while cruising through right at day break as the sun was coming up on the Horizon. Nothing else mattered but taking in my surroundings and enjoying the peace here in the middle of nowhere in south central Utah. I highly recommend that everyone visit Utah at least once in their lifetime! I haven’t even scratched the surface of what this landscape has to offer – I shall be back;) Enjoy these pics

Parowan Gap Petroglyphs
Zion Natl. Park
Tunnel in Zion Natl. Park
Hwy 12
Bryce Natl. Park
Burr Trail
Burr Trail
Burr Trail
Camp in the middle of nowhere
Cruising with the sunrise
Notom-Bullfrog Rd.
Petroglyphs at Capital Reef Natl. Park
Looking down while hiking
The effect of erosion
Hiking in Capital Reef Natl. Park
If you look closely you can see me
Amazing gorge off of Burr Trail
Arches Natl. Park